More sensible yet still sporty, the Swift 1.2L AT
Mounting the model’s smallest engine yet and riding higher with big cushiony tires, the Swift 1.2L AT seems a risky fork in Suzuki Philippines’ line-up that started out with the popular Swift 1.4L hatchback. But it’s been a risk well taken, bringing this new sensibility that makes it an even better fit to this market.
The Suzuki Swift 1.2L AT has the smaller engine and taller stance of the variant that India’s Maruti-Suzuki partnership had adapted to fit that market’s Sub-4 tax category and their rougher countryside roads. In India, vehicles measuring less than four meters and mounting gasoline engines displacing 1.2L or less incur excise taxes reduced to just 12 percent. And with India’s notorious road conditions between or even within city limits, the 170mm ground clearance on this Swift conforms to their 160 to 180mm benchmark range for keeping undercarriages unscathed. Although there’s no equivalent to that Sub-4 category here, the downstream effect of the tax break from the huge India market seems to bring major savings to Suzuki Philippines as well. Swift 1.2L variants are priced lower than those of the Swift 1.4L by more than P100k.
The Swift has this dome of a hood that blends into a straight-roofed cabin box made rakish by up-sloping character lines. Body volume tapers to the rear, approximating a teardrop shape and ending in a small boot. With a 211 liter capacity that can be expanded by collapsing the rear seats, the limited cargo space is just the trade-off you’d expect on a hatchback meant for more exciting things. And, on the Swift 1.2L AT, those looks are backed up by a sporty disposition. The Swift 1.2L’s VVT-equipped K12M engine delivers 87hp @ 6000rpm and 114Nm @ 4000rpm, giving up 9 percent in horsepower and 15 percent in peak torque to that of the 1.4L’s K14M. It’s enough of a downgrade to raise concern, especially considering the Swift 1.2L’s 960~990kg of curb weight. But the smaller engine’s slightly lower torque seems well compensated by slippage in the hydraulic torque converter. Though seemingly inefficient, slippage between the converter’s impeller and turbine actually multiplies torque, creating this dynamic gear reduction that self-adjusts as the rotation rates gradually match up.
The hatchback rolls out eagerly, even with the engine still at idle, as soon as you step off the brake. Bring the engine up to 2250rpm then and you get this assertive push to get you up to cruising speed—shift points on the 4-speed gearbox happening at 20, 50 and 80km/h. Settle down at that 80km/h and clutch lock-up soon kicks in, allowing you to ease up on the gas to bring it down to 2000rpm for a max-conserve cruise delivering 20km/l. Speed things up a bit, you get 19km/l at 90km/h with 2250rpm, 16km/l at 100km/h with 2500rpm. If you punch the gas then, the transmission does a prompt kickdown out of 4th gear overdrive, lock-up clutch disengaged, to zoom you up quickly with relentless acceleration to 140km/h, engine revs easily climbing to 5000rpm.
That kind of performance demands the handling that the Swift is known for, and, on this 1.2L with its higher center of gravity, that handling is surprisingly intact. There’s pronounced wind noise above 100km/h but the Swift is rock steady at high speed. More air under the front spoiler does reduce aerodynamic down-force, but not enough to erode ground-hugging weight. Contributing to that higher clearance are 185/65 tires on 15” alloy rims that make these the biggest wheels they’ve put on a Swift, as big as those on the rugged Toyota Avanza MPV. With recommended max inflation of just 29psi all-around, the Swift sits lightly on those big tires and is balanced well enough to put equal loading on the front and rear axles. With driver and one passenger on board, the Swift 1.2L rode evenly on tires inflated to 28psi, nicely resisting body roll and wayward steers in fast curves reaching 80km/h, while also making easy work of rough patches, those big wheels easing over frequent holes and bumps. End of the day, the Swift 1.2 still delivers on the hatchback’s well know responsiveness, rendering it into this erstwhile rally car built for everyday real world roughness.